Influential Black Women
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Mary Eliza Church Terrell was born in 1863 and lived until 1954, a period of great change in the history of African Americans. In her lifetime she advocated for a wide range of causes—woman's suffrage, adult education, anti-segregation, anti-lynching, and women's employment. Church Terrell's father, a former slave, successfully opened numerous businesses on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, becoming one of the first black millionaires. Despite her father's wishes that she work in a position befitting her class status, Terrell rebelled and went into education. This strong-willed nature was consistent throughout Terrell's life as she spoke against the numerous injustices she saw. Church Terrell worked alongside Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Mary McLeod Bethune. She co-founded the Colored Women's League in Washington and the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and helped W. E. B. Du Bois found the NAACP.